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May 2018

Something for‭ ‬Everyone

somethingforeveryone.jpg‭By Robert Carey

When Harris Rosen, an influential yet fiercely independent figure in the Orlando hotel scene, decided three years ago that his 1,501-room Rosen Shingle Creek Resort should add more guest rooms and amenities in the near future, something had to give. Specifically: a sizable chunk of the 18-hole David Harman layout that wrapped around the multi-wing building.
 
Fortunately, Rosen was able to purchase 25 acres of adjacent land to build three new holes on the far end of the course. But he also used the opportunity to redesign the 15 remaining holes so that the layout would be more memorable versus other upscale courses in Orlando. Closed for seven months in 2016, Rosen Shingle Creek reopened that December with all new bunkers (though fewer of them) plus greater undulation inside 150 yards on every hole. Most greens were rebuilt too; they now range from 3,500 square feet to 9.500 square feet to bring even more variety.

“We wanted to stand out in this market,” says Ryan Hosford, director of golf. “Every course in Orlando has sand and water and a few gators, but we want players to remember us for the specific challenge our course presents. Some folks have told us the new aprons and greens remind them of Streamsong, with the varying sizes and undulations.”

That’s high praise for a resort course that caters heavily to business travelers in town to attend events at nearby Orange County Convention Center or at the resort’s own 524,000 square feet of meeting space.

With those accolades, though, comes a new challenge for the Rosen’s golf operation: Pace of play.

“Our starters are critical to the quality of the new experience,” Hosford notes. “They have to explain to every foursome what the layout is like and make sure that each guest — especially if they don’t play much or haven’t played in a while — is using the correct tee boxes, even if it’s not their typical yardage back home. We need guests to know that the test lies in their approaches and short game, so playing a bit less yardage from the tees will give them the best experience.”

This is especially important given that 30 percent of the course’s rounds come from business events and charity tournaments.  
Another element that’s been tweaked to better suit all types of resort guests is the practice area. The course redesign included a refurbished practice range and expanded practice green, plus a 1,850-square-foot open-air pavilion set on a raised area between the two. The three features work well together for tournament needs as well as for in-house business groups looking to have a luncheon or reception that includes a fun activity. 

But to further boost revenue from these features, one of the first moves Hosford made after arriving on property in September 2017 was to roll out an unlimited-practice day rate.

“The practice areas are there equally for non-playing guests who just want to get out for some sun and a taste of our golf environment,” Hosford says. “Many business travelers or parents taking the kids to the theme parks don’t have time to play the course, but spending an hour on our practice grounds is very satisfying.”

As a result, what used to be an offering of 35 practice balls at a time is now bottomless, at a notably higher price that includes club rental.

“The volume we’re getting from that is pretty strong,” Hosford notes.

BRINGING THEM BACK
Among dedicated players, Hosford is focused on maintaining a higher average daily rate that the facility has enjoyed since the redesign debuted in December 2016. On the other hand, one thing he’s learned since coming to Rosen Shingle Creek from an Orlando destination course with no guest accommodations is this: “I have to think about the fortunes of the entire resort, not just maximizing the golf shop’s revenue every day. We get the same type of player here as I did at the stand-alone course, but they often have different expectations here because we have more to offer. Being part of the bigger picture and keeping that top of mind has been an adjustment for me.”

Part of the adjustment has come in the form of creating a few more rate tiers based on the resort’s needs.
“Every type of golfer can fit in here — but at the right times,” he notes. “I’m trying to preserve ADR as much as possible, but our first goal is to make everyone a repeat customer. So we’ve gotten a bit more flexible with some offerings.”

Even with no Florida-resident playing rate, the resort sees good performance from the drive-in stay-and-play segment; the offering is two rounds and one night accommodation at a discount versus a la carte. What’s more, an “I Love Rosen” card, available after the first visit at no cost besides providing contact information, delivers 25-percent discounts on accommodations, golf, spa, dining and other resort amenities, prompts longer subsequent stays with spouse or family.

“Between the new course experience and the card offering, a lot of these players are booking their next trip here even before they leave,” Hosford says. For the multi-day, multi-course player, the resort relies on local package companies targeting the Northeastern U.S. and eastern Canada, with more traffic from this segment coming through thanks to the redesign.

For the most frequent local and regional players, the facility offers Drivers Club for $99 per year. “It’s a formal loyalty membership that pays for itself right away with a free round on sign-up day, plus another on your birthday,” Hosford says. “They get the lowest rate at all times of year — in high season that’s a nice discount. Their guests get reduced rates too.”
Other discounts apply to practice-range use, instruction, merchandise and golf-grill dining.

“There are a lot of big hospitality brands in Orlando with strong loyalty programs, so ours has to be competitive,” Hosford says.
In 2017, Drivers Club had nearly 600 members.

The element that completes the experience at Rosen Shingle Creek is a service culture that comes straight from owner Harris Rosen. Consider this: The University of Central Florida in Orlando is home to the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and hundreds of those students intern across Rosen’s four hotel properties each year.

“When you see him interact with guests, it is exactly as he wants us to act,” Hosford says. “Mr. Rosen also sets the example by taking a strong personal interest in his employees.” 

Rob Carey is a freelance writer and principal of Meetings & Hospitality Insight.

 

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